The man of the year in NHRA drag racing was Tony Schumacher, who took a record fifth consecutive Top Fuel championship. Schumacher, who turns 39 on Christmas Day, drives for his father Don’s team where he’s paired with Cory McClenathan.
Schumacher won 14 times this year, an NHRA record. He took his first Top Fuel title in 1999, then started a run as the sport’s dominant star in 2004. His Top Fuel car has been sponsored for the past eight years by the US Army and Schumacher has become known to his fans as ‘The Sarge’.
Typically for drag racing, this is a family story. Don Schumacher was a top Funny Car driver who retired from the sport in 1974. After building one of the world’s leading battery-charging companies, the elder Schumacher started his own NHRA team in ’96 with Tony in the cockpit. The combination went on to become the scourge of Top Fuel racing, and in recent years the team has expanded to become the NHRA’s biggest operation.
For a few years Schumacher ran two cars in each of the Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock categories, and a pair of motorcycles too. But these days he’s content with a pair of Top Fuel cars for Tony and McClenathan, and three Funny Cars driven by Jack Beckman, Ron Capps and Gary Scelzi.